Posts Tagged ‘Bradford Woods’

On Nov. 14, 2012, the administration presented a redistricting scenario that would “balance enrollment” by keeping all seven elementary schools open. Under this scenario, the average enrollment per building would be:

–780 students = McKnight and Marshall
–400 students = BWE, FES, HES, IES, and PES

On Nov. 28, 2012, the administration presented a redistricting scenario that showed enrollment totals in the six remaining elementary schools if Peebles were to close.  Under this scenario, the average enrollment per building would be:

–850 students = McKnight and Marshall
–460 students = BWE, FES, HES, IES, and PES

SaveNASchools believes the district should “balance enrollment” by keeping all seven elementary schools open. This would allow the district to shift students from buildings that are over-capacity (i.e. Franklin) to buildings that are under-capacity (i.e. Hosack). Keeping all seven buildings open will provide the district with the space necessary to:

  1. keep class size within the district’s guidelines
  2. adequately administer elementary programs (music, ESAP, GOAL)
  3. reasonably accommodate future growth

The chart below shows the impact on each elementary building based on the redistricting scenarios presented at the Nov. 14 and Nov. 28 school board meetings. The district has not provided maps or other information related to these scenarios.

Post for March 15-3(5)-page-001

Based on the district’s records, elementary enrollment has increased by 31 students since the start of the school year.

Peebles and McKnight Elementary have seen the largest number of new students. Since the start of the year, Peebles Elementary has increased by 9 students and McKnight Elementary has increased by 14 students.

At Peebles, 4 of the 9 new students are in first grade, which illustrates the importance of operating classrooms below class size guidelines at the start of the school year.

Peebles started the year with 3 first grade classes of 23, 23, and 24 students, but those sections are now operating at 25, 25, and 24 students.

The chart below illustrates changes in elementary enrollment at each building for the current year. All information was obtained from the district under the right-to-know law.

Enrollment_Changes_3_

The California Department of Education has issued a best practices guide that outlines what steps should be taken prior to closing a school. Based on these standards, the district’s administration failed to perform adequate due diligence prior to making the recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.

1. Establish a District Advisory Committee-“it is a legislative intent, but not a mandate, for a district to have and use a District Advisory Committee (DAC) before decisions are made about school closure. But whether an intent or a mandate, the advice is good.”

  • “The job of the superintendent and board members is to evaluate facts, not gather them. And the process of gathering the facts must be as credible, transparent and non-political as possible.”
  • “At the very least, the DAC should be involved in the fact-finding necessary for an informal recommendation about school closure.”
  • “The DAC should be expanded to include a cross-section of community members who have an interest in and may be affected by school closures.”

The school board has not addressed a petition with 1,000+ taxpayer signatures requesting a district-wide community task force, despite numerous requests by community members and taxpayers over a 4-month period. The petition was submitted into the public record on January 30, 2013.

2. Evaluate the condition of each building- “one in good repair may be the best school facility in the district, in spite of its declining enrollment. It may be better to close an at-capacity but physically mediocre school;”

  • Have short term and long term renovation plans been determined and evaluated for each building?
  • What are the expected maintenance costs for each building?

Prior to recommending the closure of Peebles, the administration did not present the school board with a schedule for the projected maintenance costs for Bradford Woods, despite estimated repairs being anywhere from $8-14 million. Instead, at the Nov 28, 2012 school board meeting, Facilities Director Rob Gaertner said he was “deferring” the costs on the dated roof and HVAC system at Bradford Woods for five years. School Board Director Chris Jacobs asked Mr. Gaertner, “is that realistic?”

3. Determine the operating cost of each building- “operating costs may vary from school to school. Some schools use energy more efficiently, some schools need less maintenance, and some schools have minimal transportation costs.”

  • Has the administration determined the per-student operating cost at each building?

The only operating costs the administration presented to the school board prior to making the recommendation to close Peebles Elementary were the operating costs for Peebles Elementary. This occured at the Oct 24, 2012 school board meeting.

4. Investigate the cost of transportation for each building- “part of the decision to close a school should be based upon what transportation costs will be saved, and what new transportation costs will be incurred, once a school is closed and its students redistributed.”

  • Have detailed transportation costs been determined for each building?

At the November 14, 2012 school board meeting, Transportation Director Roger Botti presented ONE redistricting scenario related to closing Bradford Woods that showed 1,000+ students would be moved. Two scenarios were presented for a Peebles/Hosack closure that showed  500-600 students would be moved.  No detailed calculations were provided, no redistricting maps were shown, and a right-to-know request for further data was denied.

5. Determine the value of each building –“if maximizing revenue from the sale or lease of surplus schools is part of the decision regarding which school to close, then a property appraisal and assessment of the interests in and proposed uses for each property are vital.”

  • Have appraisals been conducted for each building?
  • Has the value of a possible sale/lease of each building been determined for each building?

Appraisals have not been conducted for each building nor has the value of a possible sale/lease for each building been presented by the administration to the school board.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Peebles backers speak to North Allegheny school board

By Sandy Trozzo

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Members of the Save NA Schools group are confident they got their message — don’t close Peebles Elementary School — across to the North Allegheny school board during a seven-hour public hearing that didn’t adjourn until 2:20 a.m. last Thursday. But superintendent Raymond Gualtieri’s statement following testimony suggested the group still may face an uphill battle.

Board members will vote in May on an administration proposal to close the school, which is in McCandless.

“We feel the hearing could not have gone any better. We had over 100 speakers advocating on behalf of keeping Peebles elementary open, and not one speaker came forward advocating for the closing of the building,” said Tara Fisher, one of the leaders of the citizens’ group, Save NA Schools. “I think we’ve given them a lot to think about. We made a lot of educated, well-thought-out arguments.”

Speakers during the Jan. 30 public hearing were from all seven elementary schools, although most represented Peebles and Hosack.

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TribLive Logo

Study of North Allegheny’s Peebles Elementary scrutinized

Several parents hold up graphs showing an increase in enrollment in the North Allegheny School District during a public hearing about the possibility of closing Peebles Elementary School at Carson Middles School on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff Reporter Rick Wills

North Allegheny School District residents opposed to closing Peebles Elementary School are questioning why an engineer conducted a recent study of the school for free.

Alan Lilienthal, a Peebles parent, wondered whether it is appropriate for the district to have accepted a free study.

“I also wonder why anyone would work for free, unless there was something to gain down the road,” said Lilienthal, of McCandless.

But Jon Thomas, of Thomas & Williamson Program Management of Ross, said the district asked him to do a demographic and feasibility study.

“They came to me and said, ‘Can you help out?’ I said, ‘I’d be honored to help out,’ ” said Thomas.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoodsmore/3401119-74/peebles-closing-district?printerfriendly=true#ixzz2KBQsIYOw

We are encouraging residents to do the following 3 things this week:

1) Email Rep. Mike Turzai and ask him to advocate on behalf of Peebles the same way he did for Bradford Woods. In the fall of 2011, when Bradford Woods was proposed for closure, Rep. Turzai met with school board members and told them he did not want Bradford Woods to close. We are requesting that you email Rep. Turzai at mturzai@pahousegop.com and ask him to tell the school board he is opposed to closing ANY elementary building in the district.

2) Send a letter to the school board by emailing school board secretary Rose Mary Ryan at rryan@northallegheny.org. If you spoke at the hearing, simply draft your comments into a letter and address it to the entire board.

3) Mark your calendar for Monday, February 25th. SaveNASchools will be holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 6-8pm at the Franklin Park Fire Hall. This event will be an opportunity for the community to get more information, discuss strategy, and order yard signs. Click here for the Spaghetti Dinner Flyer and here to purchase tickets.

North Allegheny’s Peebles site-closing plan still debated

January 24, 2013
By Sandy Trozzo, Post Gazette

North Allegheny administrators see closing Peebles Elementary School as inevitable in a district with stable enrollment and excess classrooms in an era when public schools are facing serious financial difficulties.

On the other hand, members of a citizens group fighting the proposed closure see a future with overcrowded schools and higher class sizes. And they dispute the administration’s enrollment projections.

In the middle of both sides is the school board — a majority of whom live in McCandless where Peebles is located.

The school board will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed school closing, which would occur next year. The board cannot vote on the recommendation until at least three months after the hearing.

The background

The process began two years ago when Architectural Innovations, which was contracted to perform a comprehensive analysis of all 12 buildings, recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary, contending that the school needs $14 million in renovations, and Peebles. The report said there would be sufficient capacity in the remaining five schools to house all elementary students.

But administrators and board members were skeptical of the firm’s numbers and recommendations, and commissioned a second study — this one by Thomas and Williamson, a construction management firm that previously did work for North Allegheny, but was involved with a lawsuit that led to a $500,000 judgment against the district.

Thomas and Williamson reduced the estimate of repairs at Bradford Woods to $8.3 million, and recommended closing Peebles instead. Administrators agreed, making the recommendation in November.

This isn’t the first time a consultant recommended closing Peebles, the district’s oldest elementary school. It also was recommended in 1997.

“When Espe closed, the recommendation was to close Espe and Peebles, and, 15 years later, nothing has changed,” superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said. “We still have the same number of excess classrooms.”

But Laurel Schreiber and Tara Fisher, leaders in the Save NA Schools group, said that 1997 recommendation also included expanding McKnight Elementary to hold 1,500 students, and possibly adding onto Hosack Elementary. Both schools are also in McCandless.

“It is not a parallel set of facts,” Mrs. Fisher said.

Enrollment and capacity

Projecting enrollment is not an exact science.

This year, enrollment was up 89 students districtwide and the 8,215 students enrolled on the third day exceeded the projections in last year’s demographics and feasibility study.

Mr. Gualtieri said enrollment is stable, noting that 314 new students enrolled last year, while 317 withdrew. “We had a wash of move-ins and move-outs,” he said. “That’s been happening for years.”

But Mrs. Fisher said the administration has underestimated enrollment for the past 13 years. The citizens group took the district’s five-year enrollment projections in 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and compared them with third-day enrollment figures. Each time, enrollment was higher than the district had projected five years earlier.

Administrators chose Peebles over Bradford Woods for closure in part because the most growth is expected in the northern half of the district as those municipalities, particularly Franklin Park and Marshall, expand with public utilities.

Brian Miller, assistant superintendent for K-12 education, said that, for every 10 babies born in Franklin Park, 12 kindergarteners show up in school. In other areas, 10 babies are born, but only eight children are still living in the district by kindergarten.

The citizens group contends that enrollment also will increase in McCandless as the older homes of empty-nesters are sold to young families.

Because enrollment is stable, the district has excess classrooms at the elementary level, administrators say. Closing a small elementary school such as Peebles will allow them to better distribute students and lower class sizes.

Save NA Schools disputes that on its website, outlining a scenario of what the district would look like if Peebles had closed this year. The number of sections would have increased, and class size would hover around the maximum in nearly every section, Mrs. Fisher said.

Fiscal realities

Closing a small elementary school and redistributing students allows the district “the ability to be more operationally efficient,” Mr. Miller said.

And that is important as the state cuts education subsidies and increases unfunded mandates, charter school tuition eats a large portion of the district’s budget and retirement costs increase by double-digit percentages every year.

North Allegheny is facing a $5.7 million deficit for 2013-14. During the past two years, the district reduced 90 positions through an early retirement incentive program, initiated activity fees for students, increased parking fees, accepted advertising on its website and in facilities, and is seeking sponsors for naming rights.

But the district needs to continue to search for ways to maximize efficiency, administrators say. The district has estimated an annual savings of $850,000 by closing Peebles. More savings will be realized if the facility can be rented, they say.

“In challenging fiscal times, that’s the way that you need to run an organization. That’s the way a family needs to run their household. That’s the way a private enterprise needs to run their company,” Mr. Miller said.

Mrs. Fisher said the savings does not justify the turmoil in which closing Peebles will leave students.

“Where is the priority for the district? This is a proposal that will save less than 1 percent of the district’s operating budget, but the impact will affect every student and every teacher at the elementary school level,” she said.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

First Published January 24, 2013 5:14 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/north-alleghenys-peebles-site-closing-plan-still-debated-671773/

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Where they stand: North Allegheny officials, parents

January 24, 2013

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A public hearing on a proposal to close Peebles Elementary School will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Carson Middle School Auditorium, 600 Hillvue Lane, McCandless. Here are the positions of school officials and the parents’ organization:

Administration

• School buildings are under-utilized. There are the same number of spare classrooms as in 1997 when a community task force recommended closing Espe and Peebles schools.

• Closing a small elementary school will better equalize class sizes throughout the remaining schools.

• Projections show the district’s enrollment remaining stable.

• On the Web: www.northallegheny.org.

Save NA Schools

• If Peebles is closed, the remaining six schools will see an increase in class size and an increase in sections, which eliminates the spare classrooms and makes it harder to manage class sizes. Seventeen classes would have 29 students or more.

• Other school districts have lower class sizes, especially in third grade. North Allegheny’s guidelines call for 30 students or fewer in grades three through five. The average third-grade class is 21 students in Pine-Richland, 21 in Mt. Lebanon and 24 in Hampton.

• The administration has underestimated projections for 13 years. Board members have questioned projections both from the administration and in the Phase 1 report.

• On the Web: www.savenaschools.com

We’re asking parents from every elementary school to register to speak at the January 30th hearing and speak about the impact closing Peebles will have on YOUR school.

You can register to speak by emailing the school board secretary, Rose Mary Ryan, at rryan@northallegheny.org.

If Peebles had closed this year, the impact on the remaining elementary school buildings would have been as outlined below (based on the administration’s October 24, 2012 proposed floor plans and their November 28, 2012 school board presentation):

Impact on Marshall Elementary

  • Marshall would have picked up 138 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone from 79% to 95%
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)
  • 4th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 1st grade would have had to operate 7 sections (instead of 6)
  • Kindergarten would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, Marshall would’ve had to use its 4th Centrum and GOAL room as classrooms.

Only one “spare” room would’ve remained and it’s currently used for the YMCA program.

According to the Sept 28, 2011 school board minutes, the Venango Trails development (adjacent to Marshall) could add 190 students to the Marshall area.

Impact on McKnight Elementary

  • McKnight would have picked up 57 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone from 88% to 95%
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 4th grade would have increased by 2 students per class (current class sizes are 27, 27, 28, 28, 28, but would’ve been 29, 29, 30, 30, 30).
  • 3rd grade classes would have increased to 29 students in EVERY CLASS
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 1st grade would have increased to 25 students in EVERY CLASS
  • Kindergarten would have picked up 6 new kids

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at McKnight (the Student Assistance room and Faculty Lounge).

An increase of 1 student in 1st grade and 3 students in 4th grade would’ve required the use of both spares, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Impact on Ingomar Elementary

  • Ingomar would have picked up 79 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone from 75% to 90%
  • 5th grade classes would have increased by 4 students per class (current class sizes are 23, 23, and 23, but would’ve been 27, 27, 27)
  • 4th grade classes would have increased by an average of 7 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 22, and 23, but would’ve been 29, 29, and 28)
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade classes would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would’ve been 24, 24, 24)
  • Kindergarten would’ve had 13 new kids and operated an extra section

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Ingomar (the LGI room and GOAL room). The LGI room has no windows. An increase of 4 students in 1st grade and an increase of 5 students in 4th grade would’ve required the use of both spares, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Impact on Bradford Woods Elementary

  • Bradford Woods would have picked up 36 new students
  • Its operating capacity would go from 74% to 81%
  • 5th grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 24, 26, but would’ve been 28, 28, 27)
  • 4th grade would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 25, 25, but would’ve been 27, 27, 27)
  • 3rd grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would’ve been 24, 24, 24)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade would have remained the same
  • Kindergarten would have increased by an average of 1.5 students

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Bradford Woods (the Life Skills and GOAL room). According to the Sept 28, 2011 school board minutes, the Venango Trails development (adjacent to Bradford Woods) could add 190 students to the Marshall area.

Impact on Hosack Elementary

  • Hosack would have picked up 135 new students
  • Its operating capacity would go from 61% to 86%
  • 5th grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 4th grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 3rd grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 2nd grade would have operated with 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade would have operated with 4 sections (instead of 2)
  • Kindergarten would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only one “spare” would’ve remained at Hosack (the Learning Support room).

An increase of 6 students in either 3rd or 4th grade would’ve required the use of Hosack’s only spare room, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Hosack sits adjacent to several housing plans that are currently under construction, including Heartland Homes Waterford Place.

Impact on Franklin Elementary

  • Franklin’s enrollment would decrease by 59 students because it is currently operating above its target capacity of 510 students (it has 515 students)
  • Its operating capacity would go from 96% to 85%.
  • 5th grade would have operated 3 sections (same as currently).
  • 4th grade would have operated 3 sections (same as currently).
  • 3rd grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class.
  • 2nd grade would have operated 4 sections (same as currently).
  • 1st grade would have operated 4 sections (same as currently).
  • Kindergarten would have operated 3 sections instead of 4.

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Franklin. One is a faculty lounge that is only 645 square feet. Franklin sits adjacent to several housing developments along Nicholson Road that include 85+ single family homes, 110+ townhouses, and 225+ apartments.